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How To Blind Bake (Par Bake – Pre Bake) A Pie Crust

How to Blind, Par or Pre Bake a  pie crust.  First we’ll answer the burning question of what’s the difference between the three?  The answer is quite simple, nothing!!   All three terms are used interchangeably when describing baking an empty pie shell and they mean the same thing.  To blind, par or pre bake an empty pie shell, simply means to bake the empty pie shell prior to filling it.  In this article, we’ll refer to the term “pre-bake”, versus using all three terms.

Note:  Some recipes, how-to articles and posts related to pies will use the terms pie crust and pie shell interchangeably to describe pie dough that has been rolled out and placed in a pie dish.  This no doubt causes confusion for the novice baker, and it’s incorrect information.  A pie shell is the result of rolling out pie dough and placing it into a pie dish.  It is in the raw dough form.  The dough becomes an empty pie shell.  A pie crust is the result of baking an empty pie shell in the oven until it becomes a browned crust.    

The picture below shows a crust that has been partially  pre-baked and is waiting to be filled and returned to the oven to finish baking.  As you can see, the bottom crust has lost its raw dough appearance, but is still not baked through.  Also, the edges are just barely a light golden color.

In some cases a pie shell is only partially  pre-baked, such as pies that do not require a long baking time. This is done because the pie filling might get done before the bottom crust has time to thoroughly bake, resulting in a soggy crust.  The empty pie shell is partially pre-baked for a few minutes, prior to pouring the filling into the shell. The pie goes back into the oven so the filling can bake while the crust finishes baking.  Some pie recipes such as pumpkin, custard, chess and pecan sometimes require partially pre-baking the crust.  This happens frequently with recipes that are baked in a shallow pie dish.

Other pie shells get pre-baked until the pie shell is totally baked into a crust.  These crusts are used for pie fillings that do not require getting baked in the oven, such as cream and refrigerator pies. 

Now that you understand the different terms and what they mean, let’s talk about how to actually pre-bake the perfect pie shell.

  1. The first thing you need to do is choose a pie crust recipe for a single pie crust.  Here’s my go to recipe for my Aunt Elsie’s Flaky Pie Crustif you don’t already have one.  This recipe makes a double crust. You can use half and freeze half.  It is also made with all shortening.  
  2. You need to read your pie recipe to determine if you need to just partially bake the pie shell or bake it until it’s totally baked. 
  3. Make pie dough and form into a disc.  Refrigerate for thirty minutes.  Roll out the pie dough and place it in a pie dish.  Trim edges, and fork or flute.
  4. Take a fork and prick the bottom and insides of the pie dough.  This is called docking.  Some bakers don’t do this if they are using pie weights, but I do both.  This step, along with using pie weights, keeps the pie dough from puffing up as it’s baking.  
  5. Allow the pie shell to set for five minutes and rest, then place it in the refrigerator for fifteen minutes before baking, if your recipe calls for butter.  If your recipe calls for shortening, place pie shell in the freezer for fifteen minutes, as shortening doesn’t set up as firm as butter.  If using a frozen pie shell, allow it to set out for about fifteen minutes prior to baking.
  6. Place a piece of foil or parchment paper in the empty pie shell.  For years I used foil, but have found over the years the easiest thing to use is parchment paper.  Crumple the paper into a wad and then un-wad it. Works perfect!  The paper only needs to come up to the bottom of the top edge of pie shell.  
  7. Fill the paper or foil lined pie shell with pie weights.  These can be store-bought ceramic pie weights, (found with baking supplies, such as rolling pins and pie dishes), or don’t waste your money and use what most bakers use…dried beans.  Any dried lentils, peas, beans, etc.. will work.
  8. Bake the pie shell as your recipe directs.  Pie crust is usually baked at a high temperature of around 425 degrees.  Bake pie shell on a cookie sheet on the lower middle rack.  Whether you are baking it until it’s all the way done or partially done, the recipe will direct you at some point to remove the pie shell from the oven, remove the pie weights and finish baking the pie shell.  It usually takes about 12-15 minutes to partial bake a crust, and about 7-8 minutes longer, depending on your oven, to bake it until it’s all the way done.  When the crust is baked until done, the edges should be a golden brown and the bottom should be very dry.  
  9. Here’s a tip that some bakers use, although I haven’t used this myself.  If baking the pie shell until it’s totally baked through, bake the pie shell, brush the bottom with an egg white.  Place the pie shell back in the oven for about 45 seconds, just long enough to set the egg white.  This will also keep your crust from getting soggy, if you’re filling it with a cream filling and not returning it to the oven.

If you want to learn more about making the perfect pie crust, check out my posts on Pie Crust 101and Choosing the right Pie Dish. 

Go practice your pie making skills and be ready for the holidays!

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